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North Light in Artists' Studios


‘North light’ means that the windows in the room face north. And this fact, here in Brighton, England, Europe in the northern hemisphere, means that the sun doesn’t shine into the room, keeping the space shadow free, cool, and consistent.

‘SUNSHINE’  detail from ‘FAMILY’ by Colin Ruffell  OAR100390

‘SUNSHINE’ detail from ‘FAMILY’ by Colin Ruffell OAR100390

Artists' studios are often sold or let at a premium if the light is only coming from a northern facing window.

Most ordinary sensible people like the effect of sunshine coming through their curtains and scattering shadows and warm spots onto the floor and furniture. East, West or South facing rooms are where we can hear the phrase ‘dappled light’ and experience that cosy warmth cast by a benevolent godlike solar power source.

But not for artists! Because artists use light and colour in their work. The effect of a slow moving shadow or sunbeam across the canvas, paper, or whatever, is interesting and pleasant, but impossible to ignore and overcome. In fact it makes working in a beautiful sunny room very difficult indeed.

So instead, sigh, we artists are found in those cold, gloomy, north-facing rooms huddled over our canvas or paper creations without any physical benefit from vitamin D and the well known vitamin D ‘positive happiness effect’ on our psyche. That is if the artist is lucky enough to have found and afforded a north light location. [More sighs]


In my own case my studio is really a big garden shed situated in the only conceivable spot at the back of the house. This means that the windows have to face due West. The sun rises in the East behind the studio and daily tracks Westward so that it can shine directly into the windows as soon as it gets far enough around.

This means that I can create in my studio until about lunchtime then I have to abandon my artwork as light streams across the work surface and completely messes with the colour, tone, and other factors. For the last twenty years that my studio has faced West I have not really been able to paint in the afternoons during the Spring, Summer, or Autumn. In the Winter it is sometimes OK if there is a lot of thick grey cloud cover. But even in Winter, alas, sometimes the low weak red sun shines into my eyes and across the canvas on my easel and makes my life impossible. Oh I know that sunsets can be hugely inspiring.

Enough! I have just read the previous rant and hope that you forgive and recognize a typical English self-deprecating attempt at humour. So please don’t take me seriously. In reality I love my studio with its great views across the garden and the valley beyond, and the convenience, and affordability. I wouldn’t swap it for a north light studio if you paid me.

Here it is! My studio.

My Studio

My Studio


All this explains why I have so much more time on my hands in the afternoons to do the multitude of other things that artists have to do to make a living. Like marketing and selling for instance. Then again there is office work, stock control, book-keeping, printing, networking, writing, and research. My websites get attention in the afternoons, and I can write these blogs as well.

My office space faces north you see.

PS. I am getting quite a few people saying that they enjoy these blogs. My writings are just the ramblings of an old hand in the art game, but if you enjoy them or find them useful in any way, please share them around. Thanks.

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